Strange Bedfellows: Atlantis, Backed By Cisco, Inks Hyper-Converged Deal With Dell

Atlantis Computing, a hyper-converged infrastructure startup funded partly by Cisco Systems, has inked an agreement to sell its solution on Dell servers.

The Atlantis solution is yet another highly valued technology being embraced by legacy vendors eager to grab a piece of the fast-growing hyper-converged market opportunity. Besides investing in Atlantis, Cisco is also partnering with Nutanix rival SimpliVity. In addition, sources say, Cisco is preparing a new hyper-converged appliance based on technology from startup Springpath.

CRN has reported that Cisco has made an undisclosed investment in Springpath and has the option of acquiring the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based startup, which competes with SimpliVity.

[Related: CRN Exclusive: VCE President Says No Plan For Dell, Cisco UCS Is The Way To Go]

Nutanix, SimpliVity and Dell declined to comment for this story.

Integral Networks, Sacramento, Calif., has signed on with Atlantis rather than with Nutanix, which also has an OEM relationship with Dell, said Bryan Badger, president of Integral. He said his company partnered with Atlantis because of its more aggressive price point for midmarket customers and strong solution provider technical support.

"Dell is a huge Nutanix partner. But we didn't feel we had the close technical ties with Nutanix to pull it off on our time frame," Badger said. "Atlantis offered to hold our hand all the way through to help us get started."

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Seth Knox, vice president of product marketing at Atlantis, said the agreement with Dell is certain to help drive more Dell hardware sales.

"Partner with everybody -- that's kind of the Dell approach," Knox said. "They just want to sell more hardware, and the more people they partner with, the more hardware they sell. Nutanix can help them do that. We see it as a good thing. When we launched our hyper-scale product line, Dell's strategy with hyper-converged seemed unclear. So we started with the others."

More recently, Dell reached out to Atlantis to be added as a server platform, Knox said. "We saw a lot of demand from customers and partners that were Dell shops that wanted Dell on this platform. So we started working with Dell on adding them to the platform. They moved us toward the FX2 platform. It has good capabilities from a networking perspective and having integrated networking is good from a hyper-converged perspective."

For now, there's room in the market for all the vendors, Knox said. "The market's growing really fast. Definitely over 100 percent CAGR [compound annual growth rate] per year," Knox said. "There's a lot of room. Awareness of the category has gone up dramatically in the last couple of years. A lot of customers are looking to replace traditional systems with hyper-converged. The market will go through the same consolidation cycle [as the rest of the industry] at some point, but will support a lot of different competitors.

"There are a lot of vendors that have jumped into the hyper-converged fray,’ continued Knox. ’SimpliVity and Nutanix have substantial customer bases and have established themselves, and [there are] a host of startups that don't have much customer traction. We have a sizable customer base based on the software products, but we're a new entrant from the hardware perspective. We're building momentum very quickly."

By adding the Dell FX2 server to its roster of platforms for its CX-4 system, Atlantis' all-flash hyper-converged buyers can now choose to purchase Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Lenovo or Cisco products as well as an Atlantis-branded server from Super Micro -- all sold 100 percent through the channel.

The CX-4 system is geared toward the remote office/back office market. Knox said these customers generally have no on-site IT staff and prioritize availability.

The CX-4 system on Dell meets those needs, Knox said, and comes in at a price point of around $60,000. The equivalent configuration from Nutanix would cost $87,000 and an equivalent SimpliVity system would cost about $75,000, he said.

"We've designed the system to be able to take advantage of any server vendor, but not be reliant on any one," Knox said. "It's available through distribution, which is important for channel partners. They might have an existing large x86 business based on HP or Lenovo, and prior to us, their options were to resell Nutanix and SimpliVity, and they might be competing against their own x86 business. Now they have the option to use something at a little lower price point."